FAA probes plane crash into house


The Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation to determine why a single-engine plane crashed into a house in the 3500 block of River Bridge Way in Brockbridge Tuesday evening, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed yesterday.

Joan Brown, the spokeswoman, said an FAA inspector went to Suburban Airport in Laurel to examine the plane about noon yesterday, the first step in what she said would be a "lengthy investigation."

FAA investigators have not interviewed the pilot of the plane, Gary Hankins, 45, of the 300 block of Dameron St. in Maryland City. He remains in critical but stable condition at the Prince George's Hospital Center, a spokeswoman there said yesterday.

The FAA, which investigates air crashes, will forward its completed report to the National Transportation Safety Board, Ms. Brown said.

Mr. Hankins was licensed to fly the "home-built" craft that took off from Suburban Airport, about one mile south of the intersection of Brock Bridge Way and River Bridge Way, shortly after 6 p.m., Ms. Brown said.

The plane flew about a mile, then circled back over homes and crashed. Firefighters took more than an hour to remove the pilot and another two hours to pry the plane from the house.

Lt. Robert Kornmann, a fire department spokesman, said a nearby construction crew volunteered the use of its crane to help pull the plane from the house.

A spokeswoman for Suburban Airservice, Inc., which operates the airport, said it had not yet been determined if the pilot tried to radio the airport for help before he crashed.

Fire officials said five people -- a man, a woman and three children -- live in the house. They were identified as Lee Nguyen, 24, the father of Toan Nguyen, 5, Thang Nguyen, 3, and Tony Nguyen, 2. The woman was identified as Le Trinh, 22.

Yesterday, a work crew put a blue tarpaulin over the hole in the roof left by the plane as workers began fixing the damage. One of the workers said the family had made temporary arrangements to stay in a hotel. He did not know where the hotel was, the workman said. Neighbors who live on the block did not know of the family's whereabouts.

Family members declined interviews Tuesday night. None of them was hurt, said Lieutenant Kornmann. Lee Nguyen was in the kitchen at the time the plane crashed through the roof, he said.

Four of the occupants escaped through the back door and one went out the front door, Lieutenant Kornmann said.

"The people were freaking out," said Ken Kincaid, 12, who lives in the nearby Parkway Village mobile home park. He said he heard a loud crunching noise, ran to River Bridge Way and saw the residents of the house running out.

John Manos, 14, was at football practice on a field near the trailer park when he saw the plane come from the direction of the airport.

"It circled around. It may have wanted to land on the football field but couldn't because we were there. It sounded like he cut the engine and couldn't get it back on," Mr. Manos said.

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